- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 21, 2019

Sen. Bernard Sanders on Saturday promised that if elected president he would wipe out all of the medical debt owed by Americans.

Under his plan, the federal government would step in to renegotiate and eliminate the estimated $81 billion in past-due medical debt, block “abusive and harassing” debt collection activities and erase medical debt information from credit reports.

“The very concept of medical debt should not exist,” said Mr. Sanders, a senator from Vermont. “In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, one illness or disease should not ruin a family’s financial life and future.”

The plan upped the ante for Democratic presidential candidates who are offering a slew of new benefits such as paying off student debt and making public colleges and universities tuition-free.

The proposal also goes hand-in-hand with Mr. Sanders plan for a “Medicare for All” government-run health care system that would eliminate private health insurance.



Mr. Sanders rolled out the plan as his campaign faces a major challenge from Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a rival offering a similar socialist-style agenda. Her campaign has been gaining steam and surpassing Mr. Sanders as the chief far-left alternative to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, the frontrunner in the race.

Mr. Biden, Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders have emerged as the top three contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Mr. Sanders‘ new plan has a populist appeal in a country where medical debt is the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy.

The Sanders campaign noted that 79 million Americans struggle to pay their medical bills or are paying off medical debt, including more than half of families making less than $40,000 a year. And nearly 8 million people were pushed into poverty last year due to medical expenses.

Mr. Sanders promised to protect Americans from collection agencies, which he said buy up hospital debt for pennies on the dollar and then mercilessly go after the debtors.

The plan would rein in collection agencies by substantially limiting the assets that can be seized and the wages that can be garnished in the collection. These measures, he said, would ensure consumers do not lose their homes, jobs or primary vehicles so that they will continue to be able to financially support their families.

Under the plan, collection agencies would be significantly limited in the number of contact attempts per week a collector can make to a debtor through any mode of communication. Furthermore, it would require them to ensure information about debt is fully accurate before attempting to collect.

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